New implantable remote-controlled contraceptive lasts 16 years

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Washington: A US start-up has come up with a new implantable contraceptive - a wireless, remote-controlled chip that can be turned on and off at the push of a button - which can last for 16 years.

The new birth control drug delivery system developed by Massachusetts-based MicroCHIPS can be remotely turned on or off.

The device will begin pre-clinical testing in 2015 and if successful, it will be on the market by 2018.

According to MIT Technology Review, the device would be more convenient for many women because, unlike existing contraceptive implants, it can be deactivated without a trip to the clinic and an outpatient procedure, and it would last nearly half their reproductive life.

The device measures 20 x 20 x 7 millimetres, and it is designed to be implanted under the skin of the buttocks, upper arm, or abdomen.

It works by dispensing 30 micro-grammes a day of levonorgestrel, a hormone already used in several kinds of contraceptives.

Sixteen years' worth of the hormone fits in tiny reservoirs on a microchip 1.5 centimetres wide inside the device.

MicroCHIPS invented a hermetic titanium and platinum seal on the reservoirs containing the levonorgestrel. Passing an electric current through the seal from an internal battery melts it temporarily, allowing a small dose of the hormone to diffuse out each day.

"The idea of using a thin membrane like an electric fuse was the most challenging and the most creative problem we had to solve," MicroCHIPS president Robert Farra said.

In case a woman wishes to conceive, she can simply turn off the implant with a remote control; another click of the remote restarts it, the report said.

After 16 years, the implant could be removed. Doctors could also adjust dosages remotely. Currently, no hormonal birth control lasts over five years.

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